Starting in 1864, scenic landscapes in the US were set aside to protect wildlife and no other country has preserved more land for the use and enjoyment of its people than the US. Our public lands – refuges, forests, parks and more – serve as strongholds for wildlife and are critical to their survival. They help protect sources of clean drinking water, and provide opportunities for quality time in the great outdoors.

So what kind of parks really protect wildlife?

The two most vital ones are “ark” and “park.” The “ark” method relies on bringing animals from other strongholds into areas where they have disappeared. This often means translocating or captive breeding to restore populations of imperiled animals back into nature, much like the US achieved by moving wolves from Canada into the northern Rockies in the mid 1990s. In contrast, the “park” method uses land conservation to serve as a protected home in which restored and other wildlife species can thrive, much like Yellowstone National Park functioned as a haven for this wolf recovery.

Our friends at Defenders of Wildlife work to protect and recover hundreds of imperiled species in every imaginable habitat across the country – from wolves and grizzlies to manatees, sea otters and the sprightly sage-grouse.

Common tern and chicks Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: USFWS

Common tern and chicks at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: USFWS

Preserving Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge – Seals, Great White Sharks & more

Extending from the elbow of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of barrier beaches, sandy islands and surrounding waters that include some of New England’s last remaining wild seacoast. This dynamic, wilderness system of ocean, intertidal flats, salt and freshwater marshes, dunes and freshwater ponds supports a vast array of species, including seabirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, land birds, horseshoe crabs, and seals. It is also vital migratory habitat for the endangered piping plover and the threatened red knot.

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Lighthouse at Monomoy. Photo: USFWS

Some state and local interests seek to take control of a vital portion of Monomoy, removing nearly 4,000 acres of marine waters and fragile seabed from the refuge. Eliminating this portion of the refuge would risk conservation of sensitive and imperiled species and their habitat and set a dangerous precedent that threatens other refuges and public lands across the country. Defenders of Wildlife is encouraging the federal, state and local governments to work collaboratively to pursue alternative management arrangements that both serve local needs and preserve the area as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The seal colony is thriving, and attracting the great whites for dinner. Beaches on the northern part of the Refuge have good hiking trails, and you can view sailboarders on windy days from the beach, or the nearby bluffs.

Seals gather on South Monomoy Island, a few hundred yards from the lighthouse. Photo: Keith Shannon/USFWS

Seals gather on South Monomoy Island, a few hundred yards from the lighthouse. Photo: Keith Shannon/USFWS

New Public Use Regulations Moose Welcome for Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

First dedicated as a National Moose Range in 1941, this refuge now provides nearly two million acres of protected habitat for moose, bears, migratory and non-migratory birds, wolves, trumpeter swans, salmon and more. Located on the southern end of the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, Kenai NWR is home to a diverse landscape with muskeg (wetlands), alpine areas and taiga forests for both wildlife and people to enjoy.

US Moose_animal_pair_bull_and_cow_moose

Bull and cow moose. Photo: Ryan Hagerty via Wikimedia Commons

In May, the US Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule amending public use regulations for Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Consistent with Kenai’s 2010 Comprehensive Conservation Plan, the revisions enhance natural resource protection, while ensuring high quality, safe visitor experiences that are compatible with the refuge’s purposes and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Defenders of Wildlife submitted substantive comments on the proposed rule supporting a permanent ban on hunting and trapping of wolves, coyotes and lynx in Kenai’s Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, as well as updated requirements for managing wildlife attractants throughout the refuge. They also requested clarification of the existing prohibition on brown bear baiting in the refuge, and recommended that the Service apply the same protections to black bears. Those provisions, and others regulating use of firearms, motorized watercraft, certain off-road vehicle travel and camping are now final, although the Service declined to prohibit baiting of black bears in Kenai.

Opposing Transfer of Desert National Wildlife Refuge to the Air Force in Nevada

Desert National Wildlife Refuge, the largest refuge in the lower 48 states, is a rugged, mountainous expanse in Nevada that supports vital populations of bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lion, myriad reptiles and fields of wildflowers. The Mojave Desert & Great Basin ecosystems merge on the vast dry landscape. The refuge contains six major mountain ranges rising to an elevation of almost 10,000 feet.

The House of Representatives is considering legislation that would transfer control of more than 800,000 acres—over half of Desert Refuge—to the Air Force. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently co-manages this portion of the refuge with the Air Force pursuant to an agreement that maintains the Service’s ability to administer the land for conservation purposes. The proposed legislation would limit the Service’s ability to preserve wildlife, habitat and other public values on these lands. Defenders of Wildlife is actively opposing the House legislation in the current Congress.

The hub of Desert NWR, Corn Creek is excellent both as a destination and a starting point. After looking through the exhibits in the Visitor Center, set out on one of our five trails, three of which are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. Take a peek at the endangered Pahrump poolfish in our refugium on your way to the Railroad Tie Cabin. Built with railroad ties from the abandoned Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad, old scars from the railroad spikes still mark the walls of this 1920s historic home.

Fish Pond, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Near Las Vegas, Nevada

Fish Pond, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Near Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Ken Lund via Flickr

Saving Sage-Grouse at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Oregon

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 to restore the Great Basin’s declining populations of pronghorn antelope, the fastest land animal in North America. Today, Hart Mountain in Oregon and neighboring Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada anchor the western edge of the Sagebrush Sea, a vast but imperiled landscape that covers parts of 11 western states.

The refuges are expansive and livestock-free, making them vital strongholds for pronghorn, sage-grouse, American pika, California bighorn sheep, and more than 300 other species that depend on sagebrush grasslands. Defenders of Wildlife and our partners have spent the last four years working to improve conservation of sage-grouse across throughout the West. Hart Mountain and Sheldon refuges are central to these efforts to protect and recover this imperiled bird in the northern Great Basin.

Anna Flook Homestead at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. Photo: USFWS via Flickr

Anna Flook Homestead at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. Photo: USFWS via Flickr

Protecting sea turtle nesting habitat in Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida

Named after the pioneering conservationist and herpetologist, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge was originally established in 1991 to protect nesting habitat for green and loggerhead sea turtles. This refuge encompasses over 20 miles of shoreline from Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach in Florida, totaling 252 acres of protected lands.

Archie Carr is used by thousands of nesting sea turtles, which today include green, loggerhead, leatherback and even an extremely rare Kemp’s ridley. This undisturbed habitat provides habitat for 25-35 percent of all loggerhead and green sea turtle nests in the US. To see the turtles, check out the Guided Sea Turtle Program.

In 2016, the University of Central Florida and the US Fish and Wildlife Service reached an agreement to establish a conservation research facility on the refuge which will provide a new research lab and additional accommodations for conservation staff and students. Defenders of Wildlife is working with state officials to make sure development projects are built with wildlife in mind and do not disrupt the nesting habitat of these turtles.

Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge

Green Sea Turtle Hatchling at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Photo:
Keenan Adams/ USFWS via Flickr

Vieques National Wildlife Refuge: Save haven for wildlife

The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is not just an American treasure, it’s also a true safe haven for wildlife. Along with spectacular animals like Antillean manatees, fisherman bats and hundreds of birds from the little Blue Heron to the great egret, this refuge and its surrounding waters are home to sixteen threatened or endangered plants and animals.

Vieques Island also has the highest percentage of green sea turtle nests in the Archipelago of Puerto Rico. Green sea turtles are listed under the Endangered Species Act and are protected in the U.S. and around the world. More than 300,000 people visit Vieques National Wildlife Refuge every year to enjoy pristine beaches and incredible wildlife.

Puerto Ricans and all Americans can be assured that the natural resources and the economic benefits provided by Vieques National Wildlife Refuge are protected, now that earlier this year Congress rejected the massive public lands giveaway of thousands of acres of this incredible refuge. Defenders of Wildlife is working to continue to block dangerous riders and pieces of legislation in the Senate and Congress that harm our wildlife and wild lands.

The secluded and undeveloped beaches of Vieques National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of Puerto Rico have been called some of the most beautiful in the world. (Maritza Vargas, USFWS)

The secluded, undeveloped beaches of Vieques National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of Puerto Rico have been called some of the most beautiful in the world. Photo: Maritza Vargas,/ USFWS via Flickr

To learn more and support Defenders of Wildlife in their fight to protect public lands, please visit